Daily Archives: November 4, 2019

A NYT profile Piece on Paula White, Prosperity Gospel Preacher and Newest White House Aide

Among Christians, however, Ms. White is a divisive figure. Her association with the belief that God wants followers to find wealth and health — commonly called the prosperity gospel — is highly unorthodox in the faith and considered heretical by many. And experts on religion in politics said that Ms. White’s ascendancy was unlike any other relationship between a president and a faith adviser in modern times.

“I never would have guessed that Paula White and Donald Trump would be the preacher-president duo people remember like Billy Graham and Richard Nixon,” said Kate Bowler, a professor of Christian history at Duke Divinity School.

“Paula White survived scandal and little support from the religious right to become one of the only stand-alone women in the male-dominated world of televangelism,” Dr. Bowler said. “She has done what no one thought she could do, scraping out a place for an unpopular theology beside an unpopular president.”

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Office of the President, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture

(LA Times) When jail chaplains are volunteers, some faiths are more present than others

The chaplains in the Los Angeles County jails, some of whom were once behind bars themselves, are united by a simple mission: remind inmates of their humanity. It’s a job they often do in one-on-one visits. They’ll tell jokes, share a prayer, teach a religious text, or simply listen.

Many inmates come from broken homes, have been homeless, or don’t have someone who cares about them. The attention and compassion of a chaplain can go a long way.

The county provides no funding for jail chaplains, so their presence depends on volunteers and religious institutions that may offer support. Consequently, chaplains from particular faiths can struggle or work long hours to meet the demand of inmates who want to see them.

Read it all.

Posted in Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture

William Witt–Signs of Hope and Cracks in the Armor: An Ordination Sermon for a Secular Age

So first the challenges. The culture needs to hear the Word of God today, but they are being put off by both the messenger of the Word and by a mishearing of the message. The culture does not trust the church, and it does not trust our message.

There is one main reason that the culture does not trust the church these days – the clergy scandals of the last several decades. We constantly hear the message that it is not safe to trust your children or your wives or your sisters to be alone with Protestant pastors or Catholic priests. Of course, we might think that the “Me too” movement would have taken some of the wind out of the sails of that criticism, or at least chastened a little bit of secular self righteousness. But that hasn’t happened yet. The common attitude seems to be: “Maybe Hollywood and Washington, D.C. are bad, but the church is worse.”

In terms of the traditional office of Word and sacrament, the criticism is legitimate that too many of the pastors of the church have failed in properly exercising pastoral care. This is not however a legitimate criticism of ordained ministry itself. Rather, it means that those who are called to be clergy need to be reminded of what it means to be a shepherd of the flock. So first, as the reading from Isaiah reminds us, clergy are not some kind of different species of human beings. Ordained clergy are sinners, just like those to whom they minister. Noel and Greg, the readings from Isaiah remind us that the clergy are people of unclean lips and you dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. But One greater than a seraphim has touched our lips, and he has said, “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” It is because Christ has forgiven you, that you, as a priest will be able to proclaim that Christ forgives others. But in order to do this, you yourself need to acknowledge your own sins, and you need to accept Christ’s forgiveness.

Caring for the flock of which you are the shepherd means to imitate Jesus Christ by becoming a servant of his people in the same way that Jesus himself became a servant for us. In 2 Corinthians 4, the apostle Paul writes: “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (vs. 5-7) What is a jar of clay? The King James translation uses the expression “earthen vessels.” The whole purpose of a vessel is to be a container; the vessel does not serve as an end in itself, but to carry something else. An earthen vessel or a jar of clay is also not a golden chalice; it is something weak, even something that can be broken.

Like John the Baptist in the famous Grunewald painting, the priest points away from him or herself to the crucified Christ. It is not the priest who saves, but Jesus. The priest points to Christ, he or she does not dominate over or abuse the flock, but serves the flock. Jesus said: “[W]hoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:26-28) As a priest, you are called to follow the Good Shepherd, and, like him, to lay down your life for the sheep. You are called to love your people, and to be their servant.

The second challenge of the culture is that the Gospel is not heard as good news. The church has failed to preach the message in such a way that it has been heard for what it is.

Read it all.

Posted in Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

Monday Food for Thought from Tony Evans–what is our Motivation for Worship?

When the American hostages came home from Iran on January 20, 1981, the first thing they did when they got off the plane was kiss the ground. No matter what star or achievement they had earned in the armed services, when they hit the ground from Iran, they bowed down. Home sweet home. Putting their clean lips on the dirty carp, they kissed it. They went down. Because they knew where they had been and they knew where they are now. You know why folks stop bowing? Because they forget where they’ve come from. They forget they have been hostages in Satan’s territory, and now they have been made free

–used by yours truly in yesterday’s All Saints Day sermon

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Theology

(EJ) ‘Back to earth’: Edmonton church groups exploring growing interest of green burials

[John] Matthews is also chair of the north-side Christ Church Polar Lake Cemetery, one of only a few in Edmonton currently offering plots for the green practice. He said his church was approached about two years ago by a resident interested in having a green burial, or what Matthews calls a “traditional burial,” and so they decided to provide the option.

Four speakers took to the podium during the seminar at St. Stephen the Martyr/St. Faith Anglican Church on Alberta Avenue to explore some of the spiritual considerations and challenges with natural burials. It’s about opening the door for conversation and not being scared to talk about the inevitable, Matthews said.

“The whole idea is to get death out of the closet and to confront it directly,” he said. “The more you put it aside … that’s going to prolong the grieving process or impede it really to its proper completion.”

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ecology, Eschatology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(WSJ) Russell Moore on an important new law that prevents discrimination against Catholics and evangelical Protestants in adoption services

It’s no secret what happens when faith-based providers get pushed out. A year after Boston stopped working with them, the percentage of youth in foster care who left the Massachusetts system because they aged out rose more than 50%. With fewer available homes to place children in, aging out is one of the worst outcomes as it increases a child’s likelihood of homelessness and unemployment. The rate still has not returned to pre-2006 levels. In 2011 Illinois passed a law discontinuing its partnerships with faith-based agencies—then lost more than 1,500 foster homes between 2012 and 2017. All this when the world desperately needs more providers.

And it made this week’s news even more encouraging. On Thursday, the White House announced a new rule that will help faith-based organizations remain a vital part of the child-welfare system. The Obama-era provisions redefined federal nondiscrimination policies in a way that excluded faith-based groups. The new rule brings regulations at the Department of Health and Human Services back in line with all other federal nondiscrimination law and Supreme Court precedent.

This is not a narrowing rule that excludes gay people and others from serving children. Instead, the regulation merely ensures that no one is kept from serving, while ending an attempt to stop religious organizations from doing so consistent with their convictions. It’s a welcome statement that the child-welfare system is about the welfare of children—not proxy culture wars.

Communities of faith have a lot to offer to children in foster care. Barna research shows that practicing Christians may be more than twice as likely to adopt compared with the general population—with Catholics three times as likely and evangelicals five times as likely.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(NPR) Why Millions Of Kids Can’t Read And What Better Teaching Can Do About It

The most important thing was for the child to understand the meaning of the story, not the exact words on the page. So, if a kid came to the word “horse” and said “house,” the teacher would say, that’s wrong. But, Harper recalls, “if the kid said ‘pony,’ it’d be right because pony and horse mean the same thing.”

Harper was shocked. First of all, pony and horse don’t mean the same thing. And what does a kid do when there aren’t any pictures?

This advice to a beginning reader is based on an influential theory about reading that basically says people use things like context and visual clues to read words. The theory assumes learning to read is a natural process and that with enough exposure to text, kids will figure out how words work.

Yet scientists from around the world have done thousands of studies on how people learn to read and have concluded that theory is wrong.

One big takeaway from all that research is that reading is not natural; we are not wired to read from birth. People become skilled readers by learning that written text is a code for speech sounds. The primary task for a beginning reader is to crack the code. Even skilled readers rely on decoding.

Read it all from earlier this year.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Education

Kendall Harmon’s recent Teachings on Prayer at the Saint Philip’s, Charleston, Parish Retreat

You can find the links to all four offerings here, available either as a download or to listen directly.

Posted in * By Kendall, Adult Education, Parish Ministry, Sermons & Teachings, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Saint Augustine

O Lord, who though thou wast rich yet for our sakes didst become poor, and hast promised in thy holy gospel that whatsoever is done to the least of thy brethren thou wilt receive as done to thee: Give us grace, we humbly beseech thee, to be ever willing and ready to minister, as thou enablest us, to the needs of others, and to extend the blessings of thy kingdom over all the world; to thy praise and glory, who art God over all, blessed for ever.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Now when it was reported to Sanbal’lat and Tobi’ah and to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), Sanbal’lat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” And they sent to me four times in this way and I answered them in the same manner. In the same way Sanbal’lat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall; and you wish to become their king, according to this report. And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now it will be reported to the king according to these words. So now come, and let us take counsel together.” Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen thou my hands.

–Nehemiah 6:1-9

Posted in Theology: Scripture